Mining Google’s management gold

Google recently dropped a substantial nugget of management gold… free access to its management training materials. Here’s what you need to know.

Ten years ago, Google’s ‘Project Oxygen’ set out to statistically prove that management style or ability had no impact on performance. It failed – for the findings were the exact opposite of what the company expected: when it comes to performance, good management DOES make a significant difference.

The data from Project Oxygen revealed eight key successful management behaviours. The company has recently released an updated version of the eight behaviours – and added two more.

In February 2018 Google Staffing Services Manager, Melissa Harrell, and People Analyst, Lauren Barbato, revealed that the company’s ongoing experiments in improving management outcomes across Google show that managers still matter.

‘We’ve found that quality management is not only critical, but dare we say, that it also causes better employee outcomes… For Google, these ten behaviours are what we’ve found makes a manager great at Google – determine what makes a great manager in your organisation.’

And, presumably in the interests of improving employee management outcomes everywhere, Google has made some of its management training materials freely available online. The Google Re:Work site shares the company’s manager feedback survey, meeting agenda template, career conversations worksheet, and more. But – perhaps best of all – Re:Work shares Google’s training course materials for new managers.

Presented as a comprehensive slide show intended to be delivered across two days, Google's New Manager Training Slides cover everything from decision making, coaching and delivering feedback, to reappraisal strategies for managing ‘amygdala hijack’ – the emotional flight or fight response that can affect our behaviour when we feel threatened.

The slides incorporate a TED talk from growth mindset training expert Eduardo Briceño, which explores the importance of understanding the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset, and managing accordingly. The key take-out: a growth mindset (How can I learn/do better next time?) hands down trumps a fixed mindset (Do I look smart? How am I being judged?).

The Google new management training slides distill the Project Oxygen findings to the following suggestions that a good manager should:

  • Provide specific and timely feedback

  • Balance positive (motivational) and negative (developmental) feedback

  • Understand unique strengths and development areas of each person

According to Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, leadership is about learning to let go, and empowering people at all levels of the organisation.

‘As a leader, a lot of your job is to make those people [your team] successful… remove roadblocks for them … I think it’s really important to build organisations where people really want to work together.’

Ultimately, it would appear that Google’s golden rule for management is: Managers succeed by helping their teams succeed. 

The Top 10 ‘Oxygen’ behaviours of Google's best managers

  1. Is a good coach

  2. Empowers team and does not micromanage

  3. Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being

  4. Is productive and results-oriented

  5. Is a good communicator — listens and shares information

  6. Supports career development and discusses performance

  7. Has a clear vision/strategy for the team

  8. Has key technical skills to help advise the team

  9. Collaborates across Google

  10. Is a strong decision maker